Truss and Paddy, and that call for abolition of the monarchy

“This Party will not duck and weave, unlike Labour, from the issues people are interested in.”

That could be Liz Truss today but it dates back to 1994, when Truss was president of Oxford University Lib Dems. She was at the Lib Dem conference in Brighton, speaking for a motion on abolishing the monarchy.

“I agree with Paddy Ashdown when he said, ‘everyone should have the chance to be a somebody’… We Liberal Democrats believe in opportunity for all. We believe in fairness and common sense. We believe in referenda on major constitutional issues… We do not believe that people should be born to rule.”

She said that when out with Paddy Ashdown earlier, they had come across a group of people, aged 50 to 60:

Fairly middle class, rather smart. Rather reactionary to be perfectly frank. We asked them their opinion of the monarchy. They said, ‘Abolish them. We’ve had enough’… We couldn’t find a single monarchist outside the Royal Pavilion.”

Should Liz Truss become the next prime minister, and many predict she will, I wonder what the conversation will be with HM Queen Elizabeth.

Truss: Your Majesty, I beg leave to form a government.

Queen: What and let you abolish the monarchy? Off with your head. Guards!

Okay, that’s cheesy. But cheese is a Truss thing.

Of course, Liz Truss has changed her views since those heady liberal days of 1994. What led to that transition from a full blooded Lib Dem activist to the hard right of the Tory party, from marching against Margaret Thatcher to aspiring to be her heir, remains a mystery. She explained some of the history but not the reasoning to the Daily Record last year.

The Brighton conference video of Truss’s anti-monarchy speech is here. Liz Truss also appeared at the end of a feature of that day’s ITN news bulletin, which mostly focused on Lib Dem activists being rebellious over the minimum wage.

For other recollections of a very different Liz Truss from the one we know today, see Mary Reid’s post yesterday evening.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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28 Comments

  • Catherine Crosland 21st Jul '22 - 9:34am

    It was a powerful speech. I’d like to think that perhaps that young radical liberal is still in there somewhere.
    Could someone post a link to what the motion was? Was it passed?
    I wish the party still had the courage to debate the abolition of the monarchy. Liz Truss was basically right – there are not really very many monarchists these days. I’m sure this is even more the case now than it was in 1994. Yet politicians of all parties feel that they have to pretend to be ardent monarchists.
    Liz Truss could have had a bright future in the Lib Dems, that is clear! Interesting to speculate on what might have been!

  • Neil Fawcett 21st Jul '22 - 9:45am

    It was always impossible to tell what Liz actually believed.

    She may well have been playing to the gallery back in 1994 every bit as much as she plays to the Tory gallery now.

  • Gareth Hartwell 21st Jul '22 - 9:57am

    The motion wasn’t passed. As I recall there was a lot of encouragement behind the scenes that the leadership could tolerate legalising cannabis but not abolishing the monarchy. I was one of the ones lobbying people not to pass this – at the time we were doing well in the polls and it was an unnecessary distraction. And as a 23 year-old parliamentary candidate I felt as though I needed to be one of the responsible ones compared to this 19 year-old student hothead!

    I agree with Neil that she is probably playing to the gallery now and it is very difficult to know what she really believes. I was talking to civil servants in BEIS yesterday who are fearful that she will be an extreme right-winger – but who really knows?! Their immediate issue is that we don’t have a Science Minister at all so there is no leadership in their area.

  • Gareth Hartwell 21st Jul '22 - 9:58am

    P.S. I don’t have a copy of the motion but it was to abolish the monarchy and transform the UK into a republic when the current Queen dies.

  • Catherine Crosland 21st Jul '22 - 10:10am

    Gareth Hartwell, thank you for that information about the 1994 debate – very interesting. From Liz Truss’s speech, it sounds as if the motion was calling for a referendum on the abolition of the monarchy. It also sounds as if Liz was speaking against an amendment which may have proposed keeping the monarchy but making some minor reforms to it.
    It surely is time the party debated this subject again

  • It is all very well sneering at her pragmatism Neil but her party at least empowered her to be a cabinet minister nearly a decade ago even though she had two little children. Pre Jo Swinson the Lib Dem record on mums of young children in politics was hopeless and the party still has no formal policy on maternity leave for PPCs.

  • Gareth Hartwell 21st Jul '22 - 10:28am

    Catherine, you may be correct that it was calling for a referendum on the subject – but I’m sure it was after the current Queen died rather than immediately because I remember that it was all very respectful to her.

    This was a couple of years after Simon Hughes successfully campaigned for the Queen to start paying tax.

  • Gareth Hartwell 21st Jul '22 - 10:53am

    Ruth – I agree that we don’t support women (and men) who are parents as well as we should and this puts people off a career in politics.

    But I think the problem is much broader than your are suggesting. The sad reality is that at present to have any chance of getting elected, you need to not only be able to work 70-80 hours a week for a few (or several years), you also need to be able to put in thousands of pounds of your own money into your own campaign and have a large network of family and friends to help you.

    I agree that this is not good but to address this we need to be able to raise much more money to support candidates than we currently do.

  • The Polling on The Monarchy varies but calls for abolition are in a definite minority, anywhere between 18% & 27% – discussing it in that context is as frivolous as talking about Unilateral Nuclear disarmament. I say that as a fanatical Anti-Monarchist.

    However, that doesn’t close the argument – how about having a Non-executive President alongside The Monarchy ? The President would have the primary function of defending Democracy, Human Rights & The Constitution but could also provide a symbolic figurehead for those who can’t stand The Royal Family.

  • Gareth, the funding issue is a good one. However, there are particular issues for pregnant and breastfeeding women who simply have to be absent from the fray at times. Braverman and Badenoch have little children and could reasonably have been expected at some point to be a pregnant PM. It is a credit to their party that no one seemed to bat an eyelid about that possibility.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Jul '22 - 12:54pm

    It actually is very obvious why I did not support this party then.

    Against the minimum wage, for debating the monarchy!

    Such ridiculous priorities. No refeshing ideas, amateurish look to most. Mind you, all parties were mostly awful in that era.

    I think even now, Labour and the Conservatives are too far to the left and right in their reach. But with our system, I can see why.

    Those who think it good to abnolish the monarchy are out of touch. We need to see the reality. We like our constitutional monarch. Wake up to the polls that reveal it.

  • Jason Connor 21st Jul '22 - 2:21pm

    I would vehemently oppose any attempts to abolish our constitutional monarchy and am against republicanism and a figurehead president. The Queen and royal family bring in tourists who in turn spend and benefit the local economy. I worked years ago in at Tourist Centre where most visitors wanted to see visitor attractions connected with royalty. Ms Truss seems more interested in cutting taxes and underfunding public services, perhaps that’s why she moved on to the Conservatives. I expect she would now oppose the minimum wage too! I think she will be a disaster for this country if she were to become PM. I much prefer Mr Sunak of the two left.

  • Christopher Haigh 21st Jul '22 - 3:20pm

    Well said Lorenzo. Truss is a very unstable character. She has even slagged off her old school Roundhay High which is reputed to be one of the most outstanding in West Yorkshire. I think the Liberal Democrats need to dish her for her past views on the monarchy.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Jul '22 - 4:20pm

    Christopher

    An interesting response, thanks . It is an irony that the most strong and believable comment she made on the debate where she clashed with Sunak, was the off the cuff one. But here, though she was heartfelt and transparent, her comments that she had indeed changed politically, the reasons were odd. She said it was because of the poor education in her area. Yet her area, as in the UK, had Conservatives in power!

  • It has made todays news!!!!
    Will be brought up by someone close to her opponent, no doubt.

  • She was saying this morning something about wanting to cut taxes AND increasing borrowing. And when Nick Robinson pushed her on the effect this would have on inflation, said something to the effect that no other government in the world was trying this strategy….

  • Catherine Crosland 21st Jul '22 - 5:19pm

    Jason Connor, I’m always sceptical about the argument that the royal family attracts tourists. Some countries that have abolished the monarchy find that their former royal palaces are *still* a tourist attraction, and now have the advantage that they are fully open to the public. It tends to be the historical aspect of the monarchy that attracts tourists, rather than the modern institution.
    It’s true that many people in America and other republics do seem to enjoy treating the British royal family as a “soap opera”. But its significan that this doesn’t see to make them want a monarcy of their own.

  • Catherine Crosland 21st Jul '22 - 5:24pm

    Despite what some people seem to be suggesting above, there’s no reason to suppose that young Liz Truss was anything other than completely sincere when she made that speach at Conference. I hope it isn’t used to harm her in this contest, but I’m afraid it may be. Possibly she may reflect from time to time about the alternative reality in which she remained a Lib Dem, and took part in a far more amicable leadership contest!

  • @Catherine Crosland – like you I do believe she was sincere in her views at the time. In fact, any reading of her body language and her voice will indicate that she was much more comfortable then than she is now.
    Yes, people can change over time but the puzzle is why she joined the Tories only 2 years later – what caused such a dramatic conversion?

  • I went to a few LDYS events back in ’94, and recall a small clique of about a half dozen who were very opinionated and self-regarding who wanted to brandish their more libertarian tendencies and show how boring & unimaginative the mainstream LDYS were. I was also at that year’s conference as a day rep, so couldn’t vote. This small clique set out to get media attention and make waves with provocative motions. A chap in my local party had joined earlier in 1994 from the Young Conservatives, and he enthusiastically took part in this clique- though rejoined the Tories a few years later, perhaps around the same time as Liz Truss. I recall being annoyed at how cynical and vain they seemed to be, deflecting from the national attention the party was then enjoying. And that’s why there’s every reason to doubt their sincerity back then. They were simply vain egotists with ambition to get noticed by the press. Plus ça change….

  • Zachary Adam Barker 21st Jul '22 - 9:18pm

    “The Queen and royal family bring in tourists who in turn spend and benefit the local economy”

    Should we encourage Japan to go back to Feudalism so tourists can see Ninjas?

    No. Because it is a daft idea to base how we are governed on the preference of tourists.

    But yet such reasoning is given credibility by innate cultural bias in favour of the Royals.

  • Mary Reid 21st Jul ’22 – 7:58pm:
    Yes, people can change over time but the puzzle is why she joined the Tories only 2 years later – what caused such a dramatic conversion?

    It appears she was ‘turned’ at university…

    ‘Interview: Elizabeth Truss’ [July 2010]:
    https://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2010/07/31/interview-elizabeth-truss/

    Truss blames her background for taking so long to find her true political feet. She says Conservatives were a rare breed among her acquaintances until she met other like-minded people at university.

    Also, her later “reluctant remainer” stance would seem to have been an aberration…

    She lists the views she feels ultimately qualify her as a Conservative. “I agree with them on economic policy and low taxation and a smaller state,” she explains, then quickly adds “I’m a Eurosceptic” as if to make sure I’m convinced of her Conservative credentials.

  • Jack Nicholls 21st Jul '22 - 9:55pm

    Speaking as a liberal libertarian and moderate republican (in the monarchic sense), it’s not an urgent area of policy for me. I’m no fan of Truss even by conservative standards, but I admire people who nail their colours to the mast, even if they later decide they belong on a different one. Chris Bryant, Charles Kennedy, Michael Portillo, Sian Berry, some of the best of the SNP all started somewhere else. I too hope the Sunak camp won’t make a vice out of Truss moving politically, much as I despair of the direction of that movement. That said I do hope she doesn’t try the old canard of the conservatives being the best place to be a liberal (or a libertarian for that matter). It’s analogous trying to argue that the best way to get your cardio in is to flee from an enraged hippo once a day. 🦛

  • Peter Watson 22nd Jul '22 - 8:33am

    I’ve not followed the story closely enough to know if Liz Truss has already used this defence, but the discussions on this site remind of the quote often (but probably falsely!) attributed to Churchill: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” 😉

  • Gareth Hartwell 22nd Jul '22 - 9:09am

    Lorenzo – Please bear in mind that in 1994 the motion was not passed (and as I recall it wasn’t close). I think that the party were right to allow freedom of speech to a small group of members who supported this but this doesn’t mean that the leadership or mass of the members supported the policy.

    In 1992, Simon Hughes had successfully campaigned for the Queen to be required to pay income tax. This was extremely popular with the public as I recall.

  • Gareth Hartwell 22nd Jul '22 - 9:15am

    I think Liz Truss’s campaign plan is actually very clever – and right out of the Dominic Cummings playbook. (Think House of Cards)

    She has completely shifted the agenda and is forcing Sunak to become very defensive. It doesnt matter that her plan won’t work in Government because she can change her policy as PM and doesnt have to account to the electorate of the Conservative Party members ever again anyway. But the effect (like the Brexit campaign) is to steal the agenda, be constantly on the attack and to totally derail your opponent so that he can’t get his message across.

    She said she was a ‘professional controversialist. Maybe she still is!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jul '22 - 12:51pm

    I get it Gareth, interesting comments.

  • @Peter Watson: The problem with that adage though is that if it held true generally then there’d be hardly any left-wing politicians at all, as nearly all of them would have crossed over to Toryism by the time they got to the stage where they were standing for political office. Also there’d be no social progress as I have pointed out before on this forum.

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